Friends, Free Radicals and Anti-oxidants:
El Barrio Logan Gran Prix, 3O plus, 6 corners, field of 90 +, all the playas.
Looks can be deceiving, but most of the time if your opponent is bigger, stronger and faster he's probably going to win. Case in point: Back in 1975 the Fighting Falcon freshman football team bussed over to LaPorte to play the Bulldogs. The Falcons lived in big houses on the bay and our parents worked for NASA or an aerospace conglomerate. The Bulldogs were begat by boilermakers and festered in trailer parks on or about the Houston Ship Channel. At the time, my nickname was "Popcorn" and I had just been blessed with pubic hairs. So when I looked across the field during pre-game warm ups and saw these huge beasts with beards, sideburns, bulging calves and enormous biceps, I got that sick feeling you get right before the playground bully decides to paste your belly button against your spine. We lost that day, barely, 62-0.
So warming up before the Barrio Logan Gran Prix in the shadows of the NASSCO shipyard, I looked over at the Flower Maiden camp -- resplendent with motor homes, turbo trainers, massage tables, a buffet style chow line, satelite dishes, portable Nautilus machines and Cap'm Cream's own private fluff room -- and felt a slight rumble in my lower intestines. These guys were tanned, chiseled, square-jawed, lean, All-American, organized and well-funded. The same super team with the 40k budget (not including trinkets) that lured away three Laborites with cash, toys, anal lubricants and visions of world domination. Was MKA intimidated?
MKA rolled over to the Labor camp, wedged in the alley between a scrap yard and a massage parlor. I took one look at Labor's finest, uncorked the methane build-up, and just knew everything was going to be all right. The dirty dozen never looked cleaner: GMO; desparately searching the barrio for any unmarried or unpregnant girl over the legal age and under 220 pounds; Genghis, adjusting his rakes and unpeeling a brown banana while spinning madly on his beloved rollers, Texa Furrball, Labor's version of the artful Ko Ko Pelli, draining last night's soup from his red beard; Hovercraft, meticulously minding matters of no importance so as to hit the start line without benefit of any warm up; Louie Rican, chest out, his 4 ft 11 frame pumped up to just over 5 foot, tossing F-bombs and daring the INS to check his papers; Woodchuck, slightly puffy, soaking up the rays, swapping out ear studs; Hoosier Daddy, interrupting the Labor chalk talk to ask when do we get to the part where he gets to snowplow the entire field over the curb, and an overjoyed but obviously demented polish Acrobat, filling the dead air with filthy jokes and Vegan ass gas.
Never a doubt. At least not until the first lap when the Flower Maids rushed to the front like K-Mart yentas during a blue light special and pinched off 4 of their own in a break that did not include Labor. Labor caught napping or Labor just trying to increase the odds against them? The break is about 7 strong, fueled by Dr. Brick S-house, Stan Bunghole and Cap'm Cream -- three serious crit riders who seriously want to win. Seriously.For the team. Not for themselves. GMO is the first to launch across. Latches in two laps, solo. Then Furrball. And later Genghis.
Flower Maid of Honor Steve Heggstar and assorted yellow chambermaids, including Tomo Nagasaki, Choco Loco, God's Gift and Postie have clogged up the front. The race is up the road. Nine riders in the break. Then a funny thing happens. The Flower Maidens (hereinafter the FeMs) want it badly, but their timing is amiss. The FeMs wait until all three Laborites are firmly attached and rested before ramping. First Cap'm Krueger attacks. Then Bunghole. Followed by Dr. B-house. Each time Labor latches. And each time the Laborite gets a high-toned lecture on the honor of pulling through so you can get wasted in the sprint.
Let's look at this. Bunghole, Krueger and Brickhouse are established sprinters. On paper, the best of the best. Genghis -- he's a roadie who approaches racing like a game of chess. What he lacks in short-burst speed, he makes up for with cunning, trickery and tomfoolery. Furrball -- at 5 ft 6 and a buck and a quarter, he's about as intimidating as a cabbage patch doll. On the other hand, Furrball can't be intimidated. Most of us have had beer bottles and even bullets wizz by our heads during training rides. Now factor in rasta dreadlocks. Now factor in South Texas, where picking off cyclists ranks right up there with turkey shoots and rattlesnake round-ups. An entire culture of beer bottle flinging, Ford truck driving Texas red necks couldn't scare the Furrball, so it comes as no surprise that Cap'm Kruegger's irate commands to "pull through (or else)" fall on deaf ears.
And then there's GMO. Whatever savoir faire GMO has with the ladies, he has the opposite effect on the FeMs. He homesteads in Oceanside, in the veritable belly of the FeM Beast, and has learned the only way to survive their daily drive bys is to strike first or respond to any and all assaults with deadly farce. Expecting GMO to heed the call of Krueger et al is like expecting a pussy cat to lay down and roll over when chased by a slobbering pit bull. You bark at GMO to pull through, he'll take you off the back. You yell at GMO to "keep it together" or "ride tempo", he'll attack like a Kamikazee pilot at Pearl Harbor. Your basic contrarian, just better looking.
It seems to me that the Flower Maidens have become what Labor was. In the old days, Labor just kept pounding away until its victims said "uncle." If after all the pounding Labor managed to lose, on our clearest days we would confess to our flails, and thank our Creator for the chance to live and learn. On the cloudy days, when we mistook fire for light, we tended to blame our opponent instead of ourselves.
Which brings us to the finish. Which by the way was epic*. After multiple attempts by the Flower Maidens to get away solo, Labor brought it down to a final sprint -- which on paper sounds foolish. After all, our best sprinter --Furrball - can fit inside a suitcase and gets blown off his bike in a moderate cross wind. The ultimate sin: he does't even shave his legs -- a little trick he picked up from another rebellious Texan, goes by the name of Der Hipp Star. Genghis ramped it up with three turns to go and his only competition in the final corner was Furrball, who like Genghis, is a very small but very sharp knife that is well suited for slicing and dicing.
- Genghis Hahn, Labor Power (complimented friends, family and foes)
- Texa Furr Ball, aka,TFB, Labor Power (grateful to Gaia, as always)
- Stan Bunghole, Flower Maids for now (called Genghis a "pussy" after the race)
- Dr. Allen Brick S-house, Flower Maids (complained that Labor lacked class)
- Geronimo, aka GMO, Labor Power ("Word from Downtown is we are not here to F around.")
- Cap'm Kruegger, Flower Maitre D' (after race accused Genghis of having "no honor" in front of latters' parents, for which he later apologized)
* "Epic" may be too strong. A few weeks ago Labor again confronted Flower Maiden in a Masters Cycle League race in Irwindale. Again, they had their full squadra. Again, they dominated 99% of the race But again, Labor dominated the Board, scoring a 2nd (Woodchuck), 3rd (Furrball) and 6th (Gomer Kyle), giving Labor a total of 26 points after two races. The FeMs are in 6th place with, uh, 3 points -- the same team who earlier Cap'm Kruger smugly predicted would "have to hold intra squad races just to have fun."
Observation: many years ago all the top riders signed on with Cycles Veloce. Within weeks much infighting ensued because there was not enough glory to go around. The team blew apart. MKA sees this same phenomenon manifesting in the Flower camp. The team has marquee players, but lacks chemistry, solidarity and/or applied vision.
San Luis Rey Road Race, 58 miles, 1000 ft climbing per lap, 90 degrees, 80 riders, De Facto District Masters Championships; one dead snake on road, species unconfirmed.
San Luis Rey is an annual rite of late Spring that separates the Man from his blood sugar, glucose, electrolytes and equilibrium. Every year this single race wipes out billions of brain cells and generates enormous vats of cancer causing free radicals. But we keep coming back. There has never been any question that the winner of this race is the SoCal Champ. So we must ask why the dandies over at the USCF decided to move the masters championships this year to a relatively flat course in dusty and deplorable Porterville, which may be a great town for meth lab franchisers but so attractive to bike racers. Especially the 40 plussers. This year's event will not have a 40-44 category. Turns out the promoter of the Masters championships -- Camarena -- is the same genius who managed to single fingeredly flick the once prestigious Visalia masters race into the dustbin of history by stripping the masters race of its prize list. It's like asking the CEO of RJ Reynolds to promote anti-smoking.
Notice that I inserted the above public service announcement at the top to make sure it would be asborbed by my hungry readers, like they do at the cinema with the previews before the "feature presentation."
The gameplan was simple, and time tested. Just like last year, Rican was to attack from the gun, string it out, and MKA and Robocop were to break out early and stretch it until our legs broke and our lungs busted. We had no problem with sacrificing for Hover and Genghis, both of whom have been on a roll lately in any race with more than 50 feet of elevation gain. Rican had been battling bronchitis, MKA had already raced in the 40 plus race in the morning (46 miles, 2nd place) and Robocop, who doesn't discern between a road race and a time trial, was just happy to have the chance to pound until somebody in a blue coat ordered him to stop.
Rican dutifully ramped it hard for the first few miles. MKA was skeptical that Labor's plan would work, but before the first major climb I looked back and it was single file for about a 1/4 mile. The speed, heat and early race indifference had conspired to suppress any effort to deter or spoil Labor's suicide mission. MKA attacked over the top and tucked it for the 1-2 mile downhill. A few seconds later MKA was joined by Robocop, Big Billy Barret (for DL) and Dr. Brick House, whose fat-to-muscle content was so low he was the perfect nosecone on the descents (check the books, leaner bodies plummet faster than fat ones).
MKA hoped to last two laps, three laps tops. But after one lap we had two minutes and we stretched our lead to nearly three at the end of two laps. Big Billy and Dr. Brick were barreling down the descents, maintaining good speed on the flats and holding on for the climbs. Robo was showing no signs of fatigue. Early on Dr. Brick alerted us that he wouldn't last long if he had to pull uphill. We had no complaints, as we needed him on the flats and also his presence could discourage the FeM troops from rallying-- Kruegger, Bunghole, Choco, Hegg Star, Bugs Bunny (who discovered the opposite sex and is now "too tired" to ride) and the always short, brutish and nasty Ratfink.
As it turns out, the FeM central command was not pleased with the mix and repeatedly tried to bridge across, only to be foiled and stuffed by Labor. Hover reports on the carnage as follows:
" I wish I had a tape recorder when the Flailer Mades were coming un-glued, during their 10 minute bitch and stitch session at the caboose, whilst Labor was F-trukken off the front. Kept thinking, instead of bitching about the mix in the break why don't they connect their brain to their legs and find a way up there.
For me, a big part of the beauty of our domination, was that the serious moves and damage took place NOT on the climbs, but rather on the EXPOSED, HEADWIND FLATS....where the Flailer Maides have no excuses with all that mighty horsepower and the scary time trial credentials (e.g. "Bah, Labor's just a bunch of climbing goats, skinny fuks...cant win a crit... but wait,,,genghis slammed us in Bario 24 hours ago...frick...uhh, er,,,,
uh..they're a bunch of wheelsuks, yeah that's right..") Ferchrist sake get it straight -- are we climber mutants, wheelsuck sprinters or just plain winners?"
Genghis and Hover waited patiently -- and patience is a virtue -- until the right moment when they countered along with Udo Shart-Temper. We were humping along merrily when suddenly they flashed by. "The calvary has arrived!" Genghis announced. "Where's my teammates?" Dr. Brick House implored. "Oh, they're scattered on the roadside, bleeding, bitching and gasping." You could hear another fast twitch fiber in the good doctor's hamstring snap on the news.
On the next climb Udo attacks hard. This is the moment of truth. Genghis scoots on. MKA struggles to catch up. Udo is screaming at Genghis to pull through. Genghis, in a casual tone that is frightening for its lack of fatigue, fudges, "you just dropped our best time trialer (ie, Robocop), who needs to help us stay away." At that point, we were about 4 minutes ahead of a sickly pelaton on life support. "And we need our sprinter "-- this time he was really fudging, referring to me. Apparently Udo didnt know I'd already raced and he floored it.
This was that moment you read about when the survivor drifting for days in the ocean finally lets go of his float. MKA tried to stave off the inevitable, and retreated inward. Conversation went like this: "Just pretend you're immortal. If you're immortal, then the rules of natural selection and evolution don't apply. If they don't apply, you dont need your hypathalamus limbic system, which controls the fight-flight response. If you think you can't die, and you no longer can sense fear, then you have nothing to worry about."
My legs, lungs, and heart apparently weren't listening. Hover pulls up and pats me on the ass as if to say, "Rest my child, the war is over, you're off to a better place." Hover goes by like an apparation, with the dutch boy brand skin block still slathered on his face like pancake batter, and that's when Max Kash gave up the ghost. Hover, Genghis and Udo rolled off, stranding me on porkchop hill, and the Charley was still back there, advancing. Just a few miles from the start line. "I''ve done my three laps, time for bed." Robo rolls up, carrying a wounded and cramp- happy Dr. Brick House. I learn we still have 3-4 minutes on the chase. MKA decides to keep rolling, but only on certain conditions.
Robo? Can you pull for the next 20 miles? No problem, sir. Do you need water? No, sir, I'm part camel and I train in the desert, sir. Allen? You agree to hold on for dear life and not let us drop you at any given moment for no reason other than we want to stack the top 5 and shut out the Flower Maidens, in return for which you get sixth place? Agreed, sir.
The next 20 miles were a bit hazy but students will note the bond that developed between this trio. We had been out there since the gun. It was understood that Brick House was digging deeper than he had before. Robo had plenty of juice and couldve dropped us both at any time, but we stuck together, just like we did back in "Nam humping it through the jungles, watching each other's back, going inward, committed to coming out alive, dreaming of a swimming pool filled with ice cubes and grape Nehi. And dry socks.
In the end, Labor rode Udo into the dirt, attacked him hard on the final climb, and Hovercraft and Genghis soloed in for your basic double tap. Udo limped in grumbling about having to foot the bill for Labor's victory party. But, like his brilliant wife advised, if he didnt want labor's company, he should've dropped us. Or maybe surrounded himself with some talent. In the Tour they give a polka dot jersey to the KOM climber and a green jersey to the sprinter. In california masters races, I'm sure someday we'll see special ribbons handed out to the "most honorable" racer -- a well intentioned gesture which would however irrevocably disrupt the pound-flail continuum. If you have to ask why this is so, you have not been reading closely and MKA urges you to research back copies of the RN.
- Hoodee Hoverhawk, Labor Power (Gritty with a face so frightening crows were falling out of the sky, dead)
- Genghis Hahn, Labor Power (who will stop this man?)
- Udo Shart Temper, Lady's Man (kudos to Darling Wife's loyalty and hard knockery)
- Robo Cop, Labor Power (One Speed is All You Need)
- Max Kash Agro, Labor Power ("You never knocked me down, Ray...")
- Dr. Allen Brick S-house, Flower Maidens (circa 5th lap, post cramping fits, "I would never attack you at this point."
Notes from the Funny Farm: After two races, 112 miles, 9000 feet of climbing, 8 water bottles and 12 gus, MKA had met his maker, looked her in the eye, and tried to puke, but produced only a bitter tasting bile that did not seem to want to leave my stomach, like a child being separated from her momma. See attached photo. MKA quipped: "At this point if somebody had pissed on my head I wouldv'e thanked them." To which my waggish colleauge Mr. Willy Stone from Hooterville replied: "I expect you could get people to urinate on your head. However, getting them to do so if you were on fire would be another matter." This is from the same sophisticate who on his last trip out West ate succi with a fork and for desert stuffed the 3 by 3 inch hole in the middle of his face with a glob of wasabi, which he mistook for lime flavored saltwater taffy.